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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

'Pandemic Stories' Aims To Document Greater Cincinnati During The COVID-19 Crisis

Courtesy of Jason Whitman
A street performer plays for donations as restaurants and bars begin to reopen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saturday, May 16, 2020, in Cincinnati.

People familiar with the hugely popular public radio StoryCorps project understand the importance of preserving and sharing humanity's stories. The Cincinnati Museum Center is endeavoring to document for future generations life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Titled Pandemic Stories: Greater Cincinnati and the 2020 COVID-19 Crisis, the project will collect and preserve details of "our community's progression through intense upheaval, and toward what may be a new normal."

People can add their remembrances, stories and more online. As time goes on, they may be able to provide physical items such as journals and other objects. The museum wants to hear from all age groups and walks of life.

"Collecting these stories will be cathartic for many struggling to make sense of this moment and will be enlightening for this and future generations," says Elizabeth Pierce, president and CEO of Cincinnati Museum Center. "As a keeper of the region’s history, we are doing our part to document this moment and the stories of those who lived through it for posterity."

The museum notes that images, stories and signage from the Spanish Flu pandemic a hundred years earlier demonstrate how that deadly outbreak - it infected 28% of the country and killed 20-50 million people worldwide - permeated everyday life. Pandemic Stories, its creators say, will similarly catalog this moment in time to allow those who come later to study and learn from it.

"Everybody has their individual perspective on (this moment) and it's impacting all of our lives in very different ways," Pierce says. "It's not until those reflections and those details get collected and people are able to look at it across an aggregate that you really get the sense of how the community responded."

Pierce says the museum intends to reach out to businesses and hospitals about gathering objects such as PPE and information about how they've had to change how they operate.

"I think the personal stories and photos will serve as a reminder of this time and the challenges that people have experienced and moments of hope and how we've moved through this experience as a community," Pierce says. "We're looking forward to being able to reflect that back to the region as we are able to collect these things and use them for scholarship and future exhibits, and mark this moment in time."

The museum is partnering with Cincinnati Public Schools to capture memories from graduating seniors. CPS this week launched the Class of 2020 Legends project. It will collect experiences from students through videos, stories, photos, poetry, dance and artwork. The district says more than 1,900 seniors from its 16 high schools are eligible to participate.

"Generations from now, our legendary Class of 2020 will tell their children, grandchildren and loved ones about their unique experience in 2020," says Laura Mitchell, superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools. "We are proud of them. We honor them. And, we thank them. Congratulations, Class of 2020. You are legends."

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.